For the Love of…Zombies
They look scary, they make scary sounds, and they will never stop trying to get what they want…human flesh. They are…zombies. Your favorite may be the slow moving, the fast running, or the intelligent and loving zombie capable of change, but regardless, all these creatures want to do is embrace you-and not in a fun “oh this person loves me so much” way. More like in a “oh God, why didn’t I wear a protective helmet?” way. Why do we fear zombies? Why do we love zombies? Geeks, let me take you through a blood splattered walk down memory lane, and we’ll figure it out together.
The origin story of the zombie first came to us through Haitian folklore. Although today we know them as reanimated corpses that feast on the living, Haitian folklore dating back as early as the 17th century, first described them as the dead who were brought back to “life” without their free will in order to serve Voodoo priests with free labor.
During the 1800’s literary artists such as H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley made the word “zombie” more known to the public. With stories such as “Frankenstein”, readers were able to picture creatures physically marred by the passage of time and death. They looked hideous and were capable of sinister acts that no regular human could commit. They didn’t feel real emotion and were often trapped by their makers.
The evolution of the zombies that you and I are familiar with really didn’t start until the film industry decided to incorporate them. In 1968, Director George R. Romero brought audiences a version of the zombie that still terrifies us today. “Night of the Living Dead” was a horror film that presented a group of people trapped in a farmhouse together after dead people rise from their graves to terrorize them. The attackers are creatures who moan, walk slowly, have a relentless strength, and want to eat the group. The survivors do their best to fight these monsters, but are stupefied when they witness the creatures eating flesh, organs, and other body parts. The film was an important mark which forever changed people’s perception of what a zombie was.
Since 1968, the film and TV industry has created depiction after depiction of those frightful things called zombies. Directors showed us that there was nowhere to hide. A zombie could be anyone: loved ones, strangers, or even children, but rarely were they able to be reasoned with. In 1985, Director Dan O’Bannon decided to make a sequel to Romero’s story. “The Return of the Living Dead” told a story of a group of teen punks who fight a group of zombies that invade a small town. The film did well and eventually led to four other films. Both “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Return of the Living Dead” are considered cult classics today.
There have been a number of films and tv shows that have come out since those greatly loved movies, but I want to bring up some fan favorites, how they’re different, and what makes each one of them stand out in the zombie genre.
- Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”. Although I’ve already mentioned this and why it’s a significant film, I’d also like to say that this movie is a good representation of the zombie universe because it still stands up to the test of time. I didn’t actually see it until I was already in my 30’s, but after watching it, I can say I was terrified to walk down my hallway at night. The film preys on our primal fears, presenting us with an unknown evil entity that will not stop.
- Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead”. In this frightening horror movie, a group of humans seek shelter from zombies that have taken over the world. They are a group of strangers who shack up in a mall because they think they have all of the food and supplies needed, but after a while the strangers realize that they have actually trapped themselves. It’s only a matter of time before the zombies start trying to find their way in. What makes this film distinctive in the zombie world is the beginning, which shows one nurse struggling with a zombie little girl. At this point in time, children weren’t often shown as zombies-because obviously they would need to be killed by their intended victims-but in this movie, all bets are off. The movie also features a women who is pregnant, which leads the group to some dire consequences.
- Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later”. “28 Days Later” takes place in Britain. A bike messenger gets in a car accident while out delivering and is knocked unconscious, later waking up from a coma to find that the whole world has changed around him. He eventually comes across a girl his age and little girl and he finds that he must not only protect them from the undead that they encounter, but also other human adversaries. This film is by far one of my favorite films. The representation of a common man who draws himself up to become a hero and a post apocalyptic world thrown into chaos is fascinating to watch. Another notable fact about this film is that it chooses to depict zombies as extremely fast moving creatures. The main character, Jim, played by Cillian Murphy, is often seen running to avoid them. Lastly, the music is another thing that completely makes the film. Viewers can’t help but find their heart rates escalating as the tell-tale score plays in the background. They know that something is about to happen. The film eventually spawned a sequel, “28 Weeks Later” which centered more on a father and his relationship with his children-one of which is immune to the zombie virus. The film was just as successful as its predecessor, but a third film is yet to be planned. We all wait with baited breath.
- Rob Thomas’ TV series “iZombie”. This funny yet witty tv show was developed from a comic book series created by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred and published by DC Comics. The show has currently run three seasons and has been renewed for a fourth. On the show, Liv Moore finds that after attending a party, she has been transformed into a zombie. In her previous life, she was studying to become a doctor, but due to her situation, she decides to work in a morgue. After a period of time, Liv’s sympathetic nature gets the best of her and she decides to try to start solving crimes when victims keep appearing in the morgue. She finds that if she eats the brains, she can see into that person’s past. The TV show’s ability to fuse zombie-ism with a CSI vibe is what makes it so successful.
- Eric England’s “Contracted”. In this movie, main character Samantha has a one night stand and finds herself slowly physically transforming into a zombie. The movie hints that the one night stand is what caused the metamorphisis. At the same time, she is dealing with a breakup with her girlfriend, the scrutiny of her strict mother, and the judgement of her other friends. Many people are torn over whether the initial scene is a rape scene or a one night stand scene, but the gross, graphic, and visually assaulting change of Samantha who doesn’t understand what is happening to her is interesting to watch. She is the zombie before it becomes a zombie. The movie did have a sequel, but the common consensus is that the second film unneccesarily gave answers to questions that the audience didn’t need to know. A third film is slated to release in October.
- Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead”. “Shaun of the Dead” is another comedic film that successfully ties a zombie apocalypse to a group of people that don’t really survive by using their smarts, but instead rely on every spontaneous idea they can come up with. The results are hilarious and the movie is cult worthy.
- Ruben Fleischer’s “Zombieland”. “Zombieland” is a movie where a guy who takes life too seriously befriends a group of survivors who just want to kill zombies and find a beautiful mansion to live in. Before they know it, their dreams come true, but do they have the strength to keep fighting the zombies when they just keep coming?
- Jonathan Levin’s “Warm Bodies”. “Warm Bodies” takes us to a place we’ve never been before in the zombie universe…to a love story. The main character, tragically infected by the zombie virus, finds that he still has the capability to love. However, the girl he loves just wants to kill zombies. You can see where the predicament is.
- Frank Darabont’s “The Walking Dead”. “The Walking Dead” is a dramatic TV series that focuses on a sheriff in the South who wakes up from a coma after a zombie outbreak has spread throughout the world. He travels through Atlanta searching for his wife and son and as he navigates through dangerous hoards of zombies, he discovers other survivors. The show is a based on a successful comic series that still continues to run to this day.
My fellow Geeks, I hope you have enjoyed the history of these disgusting and gruesome creatures we call zombies. And perhaps you have gathered a small inkling of why I have such an infinite love of these skin flaked and pus covered beasts. Even if you don’t love them, I promise you, they’ll become OBSESSED with you, so eat your heart out Geeks! 😉